The Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, co-chaired by the Children’s Trust and the Office of the Child Advocate, announced today that it has developed and launched a first-of-its-kind customizable website, www.safekidsthrive.org, to help child- and youth-serving organizations prevent child sexual abuse before it happens.
The Task Force, a public-private collaborative of 28 offices, agencies, and child-and-youth-serving organizations, released a report with guidelines to help child-and-youth-serving organizations develop and implement prevention-focused policies and programs that keep children safe from sexual abuse. Building off that report, the extensive experience of the Task Force members, and a series of statewide community forums, this website brings those guidelines to life in a user-friendly way, including customizable planning tools and learning modules.
“Pedophiles are drawn to child-and-youth-serving organizations, but with the right tools, these organizations have a fighting chance of stopping abuse before it happens,”said Suzin Bartley, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust, the state’s child abuse prevention agency, and co-chair of the Task Force. “We need to be holding ourselves to a higher standard by taking the steps to help organizations identify a pedophile before they have access to a child.”
According to ChildHelp USA, children who are sexually abused are 2.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 3.8 times more likely to develop drug addictions. Sadly, without intervention, the physical and behavioral effects of child sexual abuse can be lifelong.
The website’s flexibility allows different types of youth-serving organizations to find guidance and resources appropriate for their organizations. For example, a small, locally-owned dance studio will need different policies and procedures than a multi-site after school program.
“Child sexual abuse prevention is not one size fits all,” said Maria Mossaides, the Massachusetts Child Advocate, who co-chaired the Task Force. “Each organization is unique, and their safety needs are unique. This website is designed to give each organization the tools they need to prevent child sexual abuse.”
In addition to customizable planning, SafeKidsThrive.org brings to life digestible learning modules, including:
- Policies and Procedures: A comprehensive framework that builds and maintains an environment in which the safety of children and youth is primary.
- Codes of Conduct and Monitoring: Guidelines and policies defining the expected behaviors, actions, and interactions of all adults who interact with minors.
- Recognizing, Responding, and Reporting: Strategies and tools to ensure that all adults working with youth can identify and report instances of abuse.
- Safe Physical Environments and Technology: Strategies that ensure interactions with youth are monitored, and guidelines regarding the use of social media and technology.
- Screening and Hiring: Guidance regarding background screenings to recruit qualified staff and volunteers, and screen out those who have or are at risk to abuse minors.
- Training: Clear and attainable goals and essential elements for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Trainings.
- Sustainability: Organizational, cultural, and leadership strategies to enhance implementation, oversight, and long-term success.
When the Task Force released its recommendations, it held town hall meetings with youth-serving organizations across the state. Those discussions led to the recognition of a need for a user-friendly, customizable, and easily accessible tool that would help organizations put guidelines and policies into place with the intent to stop abuse before it happens. Funding and support for the project came from the Massachusetts Legislature.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the Task Force has done to develop this website, an incredible resource for child and youth-serving organizations,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “We must protect every child from sexual abuse, and this platform will provide the resources to help us to realize this vital objective.”
"It has been an honor to serve as a member of this Legislative Task Force as House Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities,” said Chair Kay Khan (D-Newton). “The Task Force has worked tirelessly to create a website that will assist parents, youth serving organizations and the public to ensure that children can thrive and be safe. The information sharing between national experts and Task Force members has been helpful and I am pleased to report that we have gained tremendous insight and a better understanding of the challenges before us from numerous community meetings. This new website distills this information and puts all that we have learned into action."
In addition to Senator Lovely and Chair Khan’s involvement, the Task Force also received support from Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), Representative Bradley Jones (R-North Reading), Representative Suzannah Whipps (U-Athol), and former Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster).
The goal of the website is to make it easier for organizations to prevent abuse. On average, a pedophile has 240 child victims. Visit www.safekidsthrive.org to learn more.
About the Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
The Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is a multi-agency collaboration of almost 30 public and private youth-serving agencies, offices, and organizations from across the Commonwealth. The Task Force, chaired by the Massachusetts Children’s Trust and the Office of the Child Advocate, has met regularly since 2015.